In a huge blow to BJD’s strong and aggressive campaign for a special status for Odisha, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has rejected the demand, saying the state does not fulfill any of the criteria prescribed.
“You will appreciate that under the existing for criteria approval by the National Development Council, Odisha does not qualify for grant of Special Category Status,” wrote Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a letter written to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Montek’s response came in reply to a letter written by Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik to PM Dr. Manmohan Singh on November 24, 2011.
Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia mentioned that Odisha does not have any of the five features that would make it eligible to get a special category state status. The criteria include Hilly and difficult terrain, low population density and /or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances.
“Odisha does not satisfy the criterion of hilly and difficult terrain although forests in some areas do pose some difficulties,” Mr. Ahluwalia said. “The proportion of tribal population in case of Odisha is relatively high as compared to the general category states, but is lower than several special category states,” he added.
In terms of economic and infrastructural backwardness, he gave mixed verdict to Odisha, but rejected the claims on a whole. In terms of National Highway density, he said this criteria was partially satisfied. Odisha would now look up to Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who had hinted at making significant changes to the existing criteria so that more states could be accommodated in the special category.